If you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet, you will. Director James Gunn and his cast — starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Bradley Cooper — have found that cross section of great action and effects, genuine mirth, and likability, that makes for a movie that kids will fondly remember into adulthood. What was once widely thought of as a long shot in Phase Two of Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe, Guardians could very well be the new Star Wars to this generation’s adolescent filmgoers. Halloween is going to see a lot of trees and raccoons running through the front yard for years to come. Toys will be flying off the shelves. And Marvel has $94 million reasons to celebrate its box office dominance.
Which is not to say that Guardians is the new sci-fi G.O.A.T., but rarely does a film so effectively appeal to both youth and adults. And, unlike Marvel’s previous films, young fans of Guardians get an all-new set of characters to love that don’t belong to their parents. Like Harry Potter before it, Guardians will belong uniquely to this generation of toy-buying, cosplaying kids.
Beyond the smart-ass space pirate, a heavily armed talking raccoon, an anthropomorphic giving tree, and a bigger than celestial life villain, this is a dense and fully realized science-fiction world that draws you in, and doesn’t let you go.
This is a new look at the Marvel Universe that is refreshingly fun. As serious as the earth seems to be in the recent Avengers story line, the galaxy here has got jokes. Not that serious heavies don’t come through, but the devil may care attitude rides high in deep space.
One can’t help thinking this was the kind of mirthful action franchise that Warner Bros had hoped to launch with Green Lantern. Casting Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan was ostensibly meant to lighten up the Green Lantern’s comic book austerity. But, was that too great a deviation from the source material? Was Green Lantern too big an icon to remix? Jordan’s antics via Ryan Reynolds never rang true, like a half-hearted sequel to The Mask. It was hollow.
Guardians, on the other hand, has the advantage in that most of its audience will have no idea that Peter Quill — aka “Star-Lord” — is more or less supposed to be a smart ass. They don’t know the source material. To them, Quill will only be the womanizing man-child we see on screen, a guy that can’t even begin to take even the most heightened circumstances too seriously. In other words, Chris Pratt was perfectly cast.
Pratt is Star-Lord. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this role once you see it. Like Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, only Tony Stark doesn’t tell dick jokes. Quill is nonetheless a dashing hero, but put it this way, if Tony Stark is witty, then Star-Lord is often the butt of such wit. But, he revels in it. He has charm in spades, and it’s this unkempt, everyman likability that will make Chris Pratt a household name.
Bradley Cooper certainly holds his own as Rocket Raccoon. He does more scene-stealing here than anyone else. The CGI-animated raccoon might just be the Guardians’ Han Solo if Star-Lord wasn’t already. This is very much a movie that is propelled by its formidable ensemble cast. Saldana’s Gamora and Dave Bautista’s Drax The Destroyer are both deadly yet vulnerable powerhouses, each advancing the story with both their triumphs and failures. Even Vin Diesel’s one-note Groot is done rather perfectly.
Then, of course, there is the soundtrack. A world where kids grow up rocking a soundtrack with, “O-H-H Child,” “Moonage Daydream,” and “Come and Get Your Love” is a good one. As Keith pointed out on twitter, it’s also the second Marvel movie this year to feature a Marvin Gaye classic during the denouement.
Like Wes Anderson’s Rushmore or any of Quentin Tarantino’s films, the music is so well implemented you can’t help but walk out humming.
Guardians will have you looking for your own “Awesome Mix,” which is already available on Amazon.